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Zahoor's story: eating healthier changed my lifestyle for the better

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Zahoor Bukhari

Diagnosed age 49 in 1995.

I decided to make changes to my lifestyle.

Zahoor realised he needed to make changes when his cousin developed serious diabetes complications.

A retired product development manager, Zahoor was born in Pakistan and came to the UK in his mid-twenties. He is married to Sakina, has four grown-up children and ten grandchildren.

Journey with diabetes

My diabetes journey

 

  • Diagnosed in 1995 at the age of 49.       
  • With increasing blood sugar levels, he was prescribed gliclazide and six years later 500 mg of metformin added to his medication.
  • Eight years ago a healthier diet and increased activity levels resulted in Hba1c levels stabilising between 5.4 and 6.3.
  • Zahoor volunteers with Diabetes UK as a Community Champion

Emotions

Dealing with diabetes diagnosis

I was very distressed when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was discovered when I was being treated in hospital after losing part of my fingers in a work accident. It was the most difficult time for me. I thought my life was about to end. 

When I found out a cousin in Pakistan, who also had Type 2 diabetes, had had to have a foot amputated after gangrene set in following an accident I knew I had to take is seriously. Tragically the gangrene spread. She had to have more of her leg amputated and in the end that was not enough to save her life.

I started thinking seriously about taking control and trying to prevent diabetes complications, I thought if I am not careful I can go along that road as well. The future was a bit black. I thought I may not be able to see my grandchildren grow up.

Life with diabetes

Family history of diabetes

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All my uncles, my mother’s brothers and sisters and my own three sisters and sisters in law have type 2 diabetes and all of them are on medication.

Going out with friends from work and also eating with my big family was a big part of my life. It is well known that Asian food is full of fat, salt and sugar. I thought if I can’t eat this food, my family and friends will treat me differently. I thought I am not going to be able to enjoy that aspect of my life anymore. I have to be honest at the start I didn’t make many changes. I was very busy with work, earning a living to support my family. I should have made changes straight away but I didn’t, it took me a long time.

Now that I have, my wife is very proud of how I look after myself. She found it difficult to start with as I started cooking my own lunches. But now she understands about healthy cooking and she likes to cook my dinner for me from the ingredients I give her.

Food and healthy eating

Embracing a healthy diet

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When I decided to make changes to my lifestyle, diet came first. I looked on the Diabetes UK website and read all about the food I needed to eat. It all looked simple - but to act on it and manage this new way of eating was difficult. I knew I had to do it.

I love the richness of our Asian food. I know the oil and fat makes the food taste good but I knew I had to sacrifice that. I had to take fat out of my food. I started to buy fresh vegetables and salad and low fat meat. Then I realised I needed somewhere to keep it all. So I bought my own fridge and put it in my bedroom.

There is a big fridge downstairs but I had to be independent. My fridge is covered in magnets of vegetables, I love my vegetables. There are also flowers in my room and lots of healthy breakfast cereals on the shelves. This inspires me. It is a positive start to the day. I also have a grill that cooks meat and allows all the fat to drain out. 

Every lunchtime I make a sandwich full of salad, vegetables and lean meat. When I told my wife and daughter-in-law I was going to cook for myself they both said “What? Don’t you like our cooking?”

I do still sit at the table with my family and once or twice a month I eat Asian food with them. But at dinner time now my wife cooks the food I ask her to cook. My family say I am a control freak, it is true I am, but it works for me.

 

Incorporating active living

I have increased my levels of activity. I walk two and a half miles a day. I go to the gym three or four times a week and I also go swimming. I like to get out in the fresh air but if it is too wet I have another way of keeping fit. 

I love music and I have set up my own gadget in the front room. I throw the switch and a bright light comes on and my music starts playing. Then I start dancing. I spend 30 dancing like I did 40 years ago, and I can still move!

Diabetes UK and me

Becoming a Community Champion

When I first retired I started watching a lot of television. Then one day I said to myself: “This is not the life, Mr Bukhari, you have to change.”

At that time I decided to become a Community Champion for Diabetes UK. I wanted to give something back to the country that has been so good to me. I now devote 12 to 16 days every month to the charity. I do radio interviews, talk shows, interviews on TV and my own roadshows at mosques, churches and temples.

I can speak three or four languages so I can engage with lots of people in different, ethnic communities to get the message through. I encourage them to take control of their destiny and start living a healthy life and eat the food which is good to keep their blood glucose low.

I use my Facebook, WhatsApp and social and electronic media to reach many thousands of family and friends for their help to move my campaign with Diabetes UK further into mixed ethnic communities and I am confident that I am succeeding in this worthy cause.

What I really want to do is dedicate the rest of my life to gain maximum knowledge and ways to help others with type 2 or those at risk of type 2. When I come home after talking to people I sleep well knowing that I am doing what I was meant to do.

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